Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Sherrod Appointment

As most of you now know, on Tuesday Prescott Sherrod was appointed to Rita Sweet Bellitto's vacant seat on the Virginia Beach City Council. The appointment has created a political firestorm and spawned conspiracy theories. I'll offer my look at it, while you can chime in under Comments.

I know Prescott Sherrod. I've served with him on Light Rail Now's Transportation Technical Advisory Committee, which he's been Chairman of. He strikes me as a nice, well-meaning guy. However, conventional wisdom is that he can't win the remaining three years on Bellitto's term in the November special election.

While Carl Wright's comment afterwards may have been coarse, it struck at a fundamental truth: the Virginia Beach City Council can't cite the Sherrod appointment as evidence that they've suddenly embraced inclusion. That would be as transparent a hoax as "Gorbachev is ill in the Crimea". Prescott Sherrod is a business community figure, not an African-American community leadership figure.

One of the theories floating in the African-American community is that Council made the appointment knowing Sherrod can't win in November, as the expected low voter turnout favors Republicans. Council pretends to be inclusive, knowing Sherrod will be replaced by a White Republican come New Year's. Conversely, Tanya Bullock wasn't appointed since, as a Republican incumbent, she could have easily won in November.

Like the Germans carelessly wheeling too vulnerably before Paris in 1914, status quoers are leaving their flank exposed. The fringe right has seemingly noticed. On Tuesday, Bill DeSteph voted against the Sherrod appointment; on Thursday, John Moss endorsed the African-American community leadership's new Council districts map and their position on a ward system. With Barack Obama at the top of the ballot that will have the 2012 City Council election, and thus a high minority turnout anticipated, this could have huge ramifications for the 2012 regular Council election.

Virginia Beach was 21.2% minority at the 1990 Census, 30.5% minority at the 2000 Census, and 35.5% minority at the 2010 Census. There were fewer Whites living in Virginia Beach in 2010 than in 1990. A look at the 2010 Census numbers will show you that Virginia Beach will easily surpass 40% minority by the 2020 Census. The status quoers who think they can continue to reject inclusion are whistling in the graveyard. Fundamental structural change in how Virginia Beach is governed is coming, one way or another, whether you like it or not.

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